Art Mercenary - Glenno Smith
15 May 2016 by Sancho Murphy
In my early to mid 20’s, I had taken a cash-in-hand job as a casual band merchandise salesperson particular to the Canberra stops for a couple of venues and touring merchandise companies. In a time of pre-adulthood responsibilities, I pretty much gauged taking jobs based on how good the ‘perks’ were – so getting paid to see a gig, potentially meeting the band and being allowed to have a couple of sneaky bevvies on the clock was a pretty sweet deal! It also exposed my eyes and ears to new music across all genres and sub-cultures I would not have otherwise been self-motivated to go see or been aware of.
Unpacking, folding, displaying garments and posters at the start of the night was routine. Amongst the trademark band logos and symbols, certain tee graphics blew my mind, it was the memorable merch with a gnarly design that I would then purchase, ask the band / musical act to sign after the show (if I could) and add to my personal collection. If I wasn’t familiar with the band, but the tee design and CD cover art visuals were next level, that would sometimes instill curiosity for me to then actually listen to the music. It made me realise the potential for the application of graphics – really f’n eye-catchingly brilliant graphics.
For those with the Australian underground, stoner, punk, rock & metal inclination, you may have encountered the distinctive pen and ink works and design of Australian illustrator Glenno Smith on various gig posters, band merchandise and CD covers with clients such as Frenzal Rhomb, The Hard Ons, Pod People, Nunchukka Supafly, as well as o’seas Acid King, Propagandhi and Electric Wizard to name a few. His works are calorie packed - visual feasts that will make you want to undo your top button to make space for more!
In light of Glenno's upcoming exhibition at Lobrow Gallery & Bar, fellow illustrator, lovable dork and wordsmith wunderkind, Houl, put together some fun questions from deep within.
Let’s start out with some pretty stock standard questions. Answer them however you like.
In return, I’ll provide some pretty stock standard reactions, just to make this a little easier for us all, and hurry things along.
- Oh wow. That reminds me of the time name drop boring story I feel the exact same way.
- I’m more of a fan of vivisection, myself, but each to their own.
- That’s really interesting.
How long have you been making art?
I’m 44 this year so that long minus a few years.
What is your process for art making?
Get an idea and go for it – preparation after inspiration, then once it’s as good as it can be, it’s a well-thought out travel plan from the time the pencil and pen hit the paper until the journey is finished.
What artists influence you?
There are too many, but recently I went to Japan and I was blown away by the ukiyo-e print makers especially.
What is your favourite dairy based food item?
Cheese in all their glorious forms.
What drives you to create?
Now that I’m making a living doing it, it is a matter of producing enough art for sale and having a spare day or two a week to do stuff for myself. I love making art. My wife Gina has been my best friend from my wasted art college years and she’s always been my honest muse. Without her, I’d probably be a barely ambitious pen-pusher.
Let’s take the time now to get deep. Trawling through your Instagram, you paint a lot of weird shit. Awesome, yes, but weird. Have there been any artwork ideas you’ve thought of, but then decided it were too fucked up to actually proceed with?
Of course, but I make them anyway, or I at least document my idea in some way. There is also a certain self-censorship that happens when your worst thoughts can be potential art. The world can do without some of these fucked up ideas seeing the light of day.
Given the content of your work, it’s safe to assume that you’d be listening to a lot of punk and metal, but there has to be one record you put on, in your alone time, when nobody is around, that really just does it for you. I’m a big fan of Dolly Parton myself. What is yours?
I have a sizeable record collection that is full of what many would consider embarrassing to surprising – of course there is tonnes of punk/metal but I’m a pop music fan. I’ve been a mad Depeche Mode fan since I was 15 and that obsession is a big slab of vinyl collection. Just got back from Japan where the vinyl is good and cheap. My luggage limit was busted by a good 8 kilos.
So exhibiting not just in the holy land that is Canberra, but at the one and only Lobrow Gallery, is a career highlight. That’s a given. What are some of the things that accompany this in your top list of achievements?
Doing art for Napalm Death – being in an exhibition with my wife and some of Australia’s best printmakers – George Gittoes, Pamela Griffith and Wendy Sharpe ( 23rd July in Bungendore!)…lots of highlights but I get a kick out of growing my Instagram account with each artwork I post – good fun. I also curate a lot of shows so each of those is a proud moment. Collaborating with Ray Ahn and the Hard-ons is a big thrill as well…lots to get excited about.
In an alternate universe, proscribing here to the idea of infinite universes, there has to be a universe in which you’re not, somehow, an artist. What are you doing right now?
I’m doing some art for the family who looked after our cats while we were in Japan – a really nice portrait of their kids, who have the most stunning eyes – a real pleasure to do and something I like to do to show my thanks – sentimental art is good for you to do – corporate art is a real soul-draining activity that must be punctuated with good-fun art and good-feeling reasons.
There’s no point in denying it, we all have one, whether it’s tucked away on your nightstand, nestled in that weird little pocket at the front of your underpants or strapped to your back with tape like John McClane approaching Hans Gruber. Your dream journal. What’s the last entry?
I tend to sketch onto A4 any ideas or observations that may help explain the universe or be the inspiration to some lyrics for songs or an illustration.
Is there any advice you’d offer to aspiring artists, or even established ones, reading this interview, before they close the window and go back to searching for that obscure 1960’s Slovenian amputee fetish video their grandmother showed them growing up or whatever it is that people do online these days?
I’m a fan of Albanian midget wrestling myself – my advice would be to sacrifice time or at least organise yourself in a way that allows even the most time-poor artist to get work done – get a desk, keep notes – when a pen fucks out, put it in another jar for another time you will need a pen that is too shit for good lines – make every drawing better than your last and be original while you’re at it – its nice to learn from people but don’t steal – practice while you work. Know when to walk away from your work – do not over work a drawing. I’m teaching illustration through work-shop.com these days so I love to give advice when it’s asked for.
Glenno's Exhibition at Lobrow Gallery & Bar launches this coming Friday 20th May at 6PM. Running for 2 weeks, the walls will be filled with Illustrations, Screenprints, Lino Prints and Mixed Media works all for sale. For more information, visit the Facebook Event.